Adeline van Waning MD PhD
Here is an example of a guided meditation in Awareness of awareness, also named “shamatha without a sign,” or “quiescence without a sign,” without a specific focus. So, in that sense this meditation is different from the ones presented before, as these all had a focus:
Let’s begin by settling the body, speech and mind in their natural states and the breathing in its natural rhythm.
Let your eyes be at least partially open and let your gaze rest vacantly in the space in front of you. Now with each in-breath, invert your awareness right in upon itself. Draw your attention right in upon that which is observing, vividly, rigorously. Attend to the very event of awareness itself, taking nothing else as your object. With each in-breath, draw your awareness inward upon that which is observing; with the in-breath, arouse your attention, pay close attention, in this way overcoming the attentional imbalance of laxity. And with each out-breath, utterly let go, release your awareness out in the space in front of you, taking nothing as an object. Just release, with no object, out into space. Just rest. Let awareness rest in its own state, aware of the on-going flow of being aware, taking an interest in nothing else. Nominally, the “object of mindfulness” is awareness itself.
Invert your awareness in upon itself, without grasping onto any subject, which is nowhere to be found. Whenever your attention latches onto an object, whenever an involuntary thought or image arises, immediately release both the thought and the grasping and rest your awareness in its own nature.
It is said that the salient qualities of consciousness are luminosity and cognizance – the sheer event of knowing. Are these qualities of your own awareness?
Shamatha without a sign is in some respects the subtlest of all the shamatha practices we’re emphasizing in this retreat. In fact, this can be the most relaxing of all practices. You focus your attention not outside or inside, not on an object; awareness is as well inside as outside, and precedes this differentiation.
Nominally, in this practice the object of mindfulness is awareness itself. You could say that awareness takes itself as its object. But experientially, as Wallace explained, this practice is more a matter of taking no object. You simply let your awareness rest.
The instruction is: “Invert your awareness in upon itself, without grasping onto any subject, which is nowhere to be found.” There’s no subject, no “me” around. Who’s meditating? We’ll come back to that.
As is mentioned, “ … whenever an involuntary thought or image arises, immediately release both the thought and the grasping.” So, this instruction differs from the one in Settling the mind in its natural state, where just the grasping is released, and where the thought is not banished but observed.
Adeline van Waning MD PhD, a Dutch psychiatrist-psychotherapist with an MA in Buddhist Studies, integrates her broad professional expertise and interests with a deep commitment to meditation and mind training regarding cultivating attention, emotion regulation and well-being. She participated in the Shamatha Project, a large international "meditation and neuroscience" project in the US. She published widely about her approach and experiences. Adeline worked at universities - including as a Visiting Professor in Japan -, institutes and in private practice. Presently she gives meditation guidance, including for mental health professionals. She also works in hospice care, writes and paints.
Less Dust the More Trust - Participating in The Shamatha Project, meditation and science is published by Mantra Books, ISBN: 978-1-78099-948-7 (Paperback) £18.99 $33.95.
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